PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Six ships and about 3,500 Sailors and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 started their Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) Jan. 13 off the coast of Southern California.
JTFEX is the third of three at-sea training evolutions designed to prepare the strike group for its scheduled six-month Western Pacific deployment in support of the global war on terrorism in the spring.
Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Amphibious Group 3, said the work-ups are "absolutely essential."
"When you send a strike group on deployment, over the horizon, they represent the Navy, the Marine Corps and our nation. They may be called upon at any moment to perform a variety of missions," said Ames, who embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), ESG 3's flag ship, during the last exercise, Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX). "They must be prepared and these work-ups ensure just this. National prestige rests upon their shoulders. More importantly, the Sailors and Marines who fight these ships depend upon excellence in combat preparedness for their safety and survivability at sea."
The training will prepare ESG 3 for its deployment by creating a realistic simulation of real-world operations and the operational challenges faced by U.S. forces in cooperation with coalition militaries.
"The exercises are designed to pressurize you to throw a lot of things at you at once," said Capt. Pete Morford, commodore, Commander Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, who works aboard Peleliu. "That way, if you can do all these things out here, the theory is you'll be that much more successful when you go forward. When you deploy you're ready for whatever comes."
Staff assigned to Commander, Strike Force Training, U.S. Pacific Fleet, are embarked aboard Peleliu for the final evaluation and grading of the strike group, certifying that it is ready to deploy.
ESG 3 is comprised of COMPHIBRON 3, Peleliu, the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), the guided missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), the guided missile destroyer USS Gonzales (DDG 66) with the crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), the 11th MEU, Tactical Control Squadron (TACRON) 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.
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